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Citizenship bill that triggered protests in northeast passed by Lok Sabha

Home minister Rajnath Singh tabled the controversial Citizenship Bill in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2019 22:11 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
All Assam Students Union (AASU) activists hold placards as they raise slogans protesting against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Guwahati on January 7.
All Assam Students Union (AASU) activists hold placards as they raise slogans protesting against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Guwahati on January 7.(PTI Photo)
         

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a controversial Bill that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan amid protests by the opposition parties.

Home minister Rajnath Singh tabled the Citizenship Bill in the House and said that the Bill is not only for Assam or for migrants from a particular country.

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had on Monday withdrew its support to the ruling BJP in Assam over differences regarding the Bill.

“I want to clarify that Citizenship Amendment Bill is not for Assam alone, this Bill is also for migrants who have come from the western borders. Assam is dealing with illegal migration for a long time now and Assam’s burden is India’s burden,” Rajnath said on Tuesday.

Opposition MPs raised slogans during the home minister’s speech in the Lok Sabha with some of BJP’s allies in the Northeast also joining in. Congress MPs walked out while the Trinamool Congress warned that Northeast will burn due to this Bill.

Watch: Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 passed in LS amid Congress walkout

“Citizenship Amendment Bill will set fire to Assam and the Northeast. No objection for refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan but make this a secular Bill. Why mention only 6 religions. Do not mention only three countries,” said Trinamool MP Saugata Ray.

Also read | Shutdown in Northeast to protest citizenship bill

Protests had erupted across Assam on Monday evening as the the NDA government cleared changes to the Citizenship Act. The protesters burned copies of the legislation in angry marches and announced a shutdown in the region on Tuesday.

The Congress said the Bill would create ethnic divisions not just in Assam but the entire Northeast and could lead to a resurgence of extremist groups.

The BJP’s allies, Meghalaya’s National People’s Party (NPP) and Mizoram’s Mizo National Front (MNF), also opposed the proposed law.

“We are going to support the bandh. Mizoram will be completely shut. We are vulnerable if people can get citizenship so easily. Mizoram has immigrants from Bangladesh and Burma (Myanmar),” Zoramthanga, Mizoram chief minister and president of the MNF told HT, adding the proposed amendment will encourage illegal immigration.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will allow citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014. To be naturalised, applicants must have in India during the 12 months leading up to December 2014 and for 11 of the 14 years prior to that.

While the Union Cabinet cleared the redrafted amendments, a joint parliamentary committee’s (JPC) report, submitted to Lok Sabha, also endorsed the proposed law.

Headed by BJP’s Rajendra Agarwal, the JPC added “the considered view that since the matter is still subjudice, the government have to tread with caution and take recourse to all legal precautions lest it causes embarrassment at a later date.”

The committee, its report added, also believes the primary objective of the Assam Accord to protect the cultural, social and linguistic identity of the Assamese would not be impeded by the new law.

Also read | Row erupts as citizenship bill gets nod; AGP withdraws support to BJP in Assam

First Published: Jan 08, 2019 15:41 IST